What makes a store or a restaurant someplace that you want to keep going back to, or not? Or one that you'd give a glowing review? Most likely, it's the customer experience – how the people, company, products make you feel each time you encounter them and how consistently your expectations are met. This formula for success in the business-to-consumer (B2C) space is one that the business-to-business (B2B) world is looking to replicate.
When it comes to customer experience, the line between personal and business lives has blurred. With technology and social media today, people have all access all the time. They feel empowered and entitled to make their views known – and have them addressed quickly. Whether the interaction is B2C or B2B, people now have similar expectations:
- They want to trust and have confidence in the company, its people, and its products and services.
- They want to feel valued and respected.
- They want consistent quality at every touchpoint and a reliable relationship.
B2B industries are coming to appreciate the importance of customer experience and view it as critical to growth and competitive differentiation. In an environment where competitors can quickly duplicate or match products and services, customer experience is becoming the way to stand out and add value to the customer. As a result, B2B companies are building discipline around customer experience and working to optimize it. Many are learning from successful B2C companies how to create and maintain a positive customer experience, translating it into their own language, and acting on it. Because customers do more business with companies they feel good about.
In B2B, which Freddie Mac is, customer experience has layers. We must take into account not only how our direct customers define a positive experience, but also how their customers define it. Complicating matters, disruptive forces – new technologies or market needs, for example – continually cause expectations to change. That pressure often starts with end-customers.
So which elements must come together to spark a sustainable customer experience chain reaction?
First: Know the customer. Every company captures an array of facts about their customers. What's often missing is the "voice of the customer" – thoughts and viewpoints that customers share through various communication channels, whether in person, over the phone, through mail, or online. It's about capturing and analyzing the hard and soft data holistically to reach meaningful conclusions – and then acting on them. When you're in control of your data, you can influence your brand's destiny.
And second: Forge a culture of customer excellence, where everything you do contributes to creating a consistently positive customer experience. This means cultivating and sustaining an environment in which employees at all levels feel enabled and accountable. It requires executive sponsorship, communications, tools, training, resources, and commitment. And these need to be continually reinforced and refreshed.
Reshaping culture is one of the toughest jobs a company can take on, and one of the most vital to its competitiveness and survival. From the top down, the whole organization must be committed and willing to do the hard work over several years to create the right conditions for long-term success.
Freddie Mac believes in the power of customer experience. It is one of the main drivers of our Single-Family Business transformation over the last few years. As part of our efforts to build a better company for our customers and a better housing finance system for our nation, we honed our strategy and restructured our organization, equipped our people, and enhanced our processes, procedures, products, and technology. We have a richer understanding of our customers and are focused on building better business with them – every day, in every way. It's a never-ending journey, however, to stay in tune with customers and flexible so that we can continue to provide the experience they want and deserve. We have mechanisms in place to help ensure that we do.
Our customers have noticed the difference in our business together. They tell us that they feel stronger partnership, feel more valued, and have more confidence in us. But we're not done. No company ever is – or shouldn't be, if it wants to remain successful and competitive. Another new technology or market need is always on its way to disrupt current needs and expectations.
Customer experience generates great energy. At Freddie Mac, we're working to harness it to move housing forward – together with our customers.
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